Muskrat Falls: Poor communication led to missed deadline to limit contamination

Muskrat Falls

Newfoundland and Labrador’s auditor general says government communication failures led to a missed deadline for work on reducing methylmercury levels in the Muskrat Falls reservoir.

The auditor general’s report released Thursday concludes the deadline was missed because the Department of Municipal Affairs and Environment failed to properly monitor and communicate work timelines.

Labrador’s three Indigenous leaders said in 2016 that they were concerned flooding the reservoir for the Muskrat Falls hydroelectricity dam in Labrador’s Churchill River would increase methylmercury levels in important hunting and fishing areas.

A committee recommended wetland capping and soil removal in the reservoir to mitigate the contamination before flooding began in 2019, but the deadline to begin the work was missed.

Instead, the Newfoundland and Labrador government divided up the money earmarked for the work and offered it in 2019 to the Indigenous leaders. The Nunatsiavut government turned the money down, however, saying it believed the province missed the deadline on purpose.

Auditor general Denise Hanrahan says she found no evidence the deadline was intentionally skipped, but she says there were missed opportunities for the government to recognize the urgency highlighted by Indigenous leaders.

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